On Tuesday afternoon, Pasta Flyer, a gourmet and gluten-free pasta truck served up dishes to Yalies on Cross Campus as a part of its tour across the East Coast.
Head chef and company founder Mark Ladner and his team used Kickstarter, a crowd-funding website, to launch Pasta Flyer. Kickstarter helped Ladner pinpoint which cities to target based on expressed interest indicated through funds contributed to the project. Ladner, who also serves as the executive chef of the upscale Italian restaurant Del Posto in Manhattan, said that the truck has already visited 10 locations so far, concentrating on college campuses including Harvard, Johnson & Wales, and Drexel University.
During the most recent stop in New Haven, Ladner gave a lecture on sustainable food practices at Saint Anthony Hall on Monday, and then served Yale students and faculty pasta bowls yesterday after preparing his ingredients in the kitchen at Heirloom, the restaurant at The Study at Yale.
“The cities we wanted to go to were also the cities that showed the most support — so, that was encouraging,” Ladner said. “We are very interested in trying to attract the demographic of the Northeastern, collegiate quarter.”
Ladner said that the tour’s ultimate goal is to help spur permanent businesses in some of these locations.
Signs surrounding the truck encouraged customers to snap photos with the dishes. Pasta Flyer will then combine these photos with graphic art and post them on their website. On Instagram, #pastaflyer garnered a few public posts with tags at Yale and Cross Campus on Tuesday afternoon.
Ladner said that he believes the truck was well received by students and fills an untapped market.
“There isn’t really any precedent that I know of in either Italian or American culture for quick-service pasta,” Ladner said.
In the three hours on Cross Campus, Pasta Flyer served about 120 customers, and many students interviewed who visited the truck offered positive reviews.
Allie Banwell ’17, who has a wheat allergy, said that she usually has to skip out on pasta. After visiting the truck, she said that the dish satisfied her pasta craving.
“I appreciated the more upscale items on the menu, like truffled eggs,” Banwell said. “It made it seem like a restaurant, and not just a food truck — the presentation was beautiful.”
Pasta Flyer’s website describes the product as a “soulful, Italian-style bowl of pasta [served] to a hungry customer’s belly as fast as a bowl of Japanese ramen, for under $10.”
Ladner said that, although his business is targeted towards college students, he intends to cater to not only the Yale community in New Haven, but city residents as well.
Yen Truong ’15, who tried the spiral noodles with pesto, truffled eggs and meatballs from the truck, said she enjoyed her meal, adding that she could not tell the difference between the gluten-free pasta and standard wheat pasta.
Truong said she abandoned eating in the dining hall to eat at the truck considering Pasta Flyer’s price point — a lunch swipe in any Yale Dining hall totals a little over $9, and Pasta Flyer bowls are in the $8 to $10 range.
Ladner said that Pasta Flyer’s business and advertising model, in addition to its cuisine, aims to fuse together a variety of cultures and practices. For example, Ladner uses a significant amount of social media and cross-cultural images in Pasta Flyer’s advertising materials.
“It is about the convergence of inspiration taken from Japanese culture, Italian culture and American culture” Ladner said.
Ladner added that the truck is heavily influenced by Japanese culture in its design and business model, citing the avatar in the company’s logo and the use of monja, a pan-fried batter used in many Japanese fast-food dishes, in the pasta bowls.
In addition to the Japanese influence, Pasta Flyer offers authentic Italian ingredients in its dishes, using a combination of rice and legume products imported directly from Italy.
Pasta Flyer’s Kickstarter campaign began last June.